Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu Ekuful has said encouraging more girls and women to pursue courses in Information and Communications Technology is key to unlocking Ghana’s development.
According to her, every sector of the Ghanaian economy is dependent on ICT for efficiency in the delivery of services as the demand for ICT skills is increasing rapidly.
Interestingly, the sector is facing a huge skills gap, Mrs Owusu Ekuful bemoaned, noting it, therefore, demands urgent measures to be put in place to increase the promotion and adoption of ICT careers among our youth, especially girls.
“We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 if girls and women are left behind in the development agenda. Again, we cannot eradicate poverty if issues of female inclusion are not addressed as a matter of urgency bearing in mind that the huge informal sector of our economy of about 70% is mostly constituted by women,” she said.
Speaking at the climax of the 2019 Girls-In-ICT celebration in Takoradi in the Western Region on Monday, May 27, Mrs Owusu Ekuful stated, “It is therefore crucial that we adopt a strategic and systematic approach to encourage more girls and women to take up leadership roles in the ICT industry. This is a shared responsibility. We must expand the horizon and change our attitudes to ensure that this digital divide is bridged as fast as possible.”
What is the government doing?
Mrs Owusu Ekuful said government having recognized the crucial role women in ICT would play in the development of the country, in 2012 institutionalized the Girls-In-ICT initiative as part of a global project by the International Communication Union (ITU) to encourage member countries to adopt measures and implement activities aimed at bridging the Digital Gender Divide.
She said the initiative was reviewed in 2018 by the Communications Ministry to include coding in the training module so as to expose “the young maidens to basic programming skills to improve their critical thinking and creative skills as they develop their career interest.”
“Giving these girls such an opportunity will enable them to make informed career decisions and give them a better advantage in future,” Mrs Owusu Ekuful stated.
2019 Girls-In-ICT Day
Ghana celebrated the International Girls in ICT Day on Monday, May 27, 2019.
Under the global theme: “Expanding horizons and changing attitudes”, Mrs Owusu Ekuful commemorated the day in the Western Region. 600 Junior High School students were selected from nine districts in the Region to undergo training in selected ICT programs for two weeks with an award scheme for the best-performing students.
In all 60 girls from the training were given laptops. In addition, the first ten girls were given internet modems with a one-year data bundle. Through the support of the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications, the ICT labs of the schools of the best 21girls emerging out of the inter-district competition would be upgraded to support ICT learning. All the teachers and coordinators who trained the girls also received laptops.
“I was thrilled during my field visits to some of the districts during the coding lessons for the girls, to see these girls performing brilliantly just after 3 days of being introduced to coding. I am amazed at the enthusiasm with which the girls adjusted to the new learning concept of coding using CSS, HTML among others,” Mrs Owusu Ekuful recounted during her speech at the climax of the celebration.
She said the ICT sector holds enormous opportunities for women with the requisite skills but stereotyping and discrimination continue to deprive girls of the opportunity to excel in this field.
“Misconceptions such as ICT requires mathematical skills, Programming is boring, logical and sterile, and people who work in ICT fields do not have a social life etc, put the girls off resulting in this digital divide that we have to address vigorously for that is not our portion in GHANA and I’m excited to see light at the end of the tunnel for Ghana presented an all-girls robotics team for the senior division of the World Robofest Championship in the United States and they won the topmost position, beating teams from the United States, Mexico, Egypt, South Korea and dozens of others.”